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Backwords: Hall Of Memories

Mike Shaw recalls the the day a politician appeared as if by magic.

There’s nobody alive today who can remember when the Marsden Mechanics’ Hall was built in 1862. But I do know that the land cost five bob in old money and the building £2,500.

That was without the clock tower, of course. It came later. In wood, because the architects were terrified that a stone one would be more than the stout-looking Mechanics’ could stand.

Even the tower opening was long before my time. But I do have a storehouse of memories of the Mechanics’.

The first time I remember being there was as an impressionable schoolboy during the 1945 General Election.

My parents took me to see Glenvil Hall at Labour’s eve-of-poll meeting. We got there about half an hour before the start, if my memory serves me right. Which was just as well because it was soon packed to the doors.

The thing that lingers most vividly of all about the occasion is what I thought at the time was a piece of magic by the great Glenvil.

As the warm-up speaker was visible flagging and seemingly about to lose his voice, up popped Mr. Hall from a door leading on to the stage.

It looked to me like a classical appearing act. Only later was I told that he had climbed up the outside fire escape to make his dramatic entry through an emergency exit. What a political Houdini he was!

About the same time of life I was dragged along to the annual ritual of the village flower and veg show in the Mechanics’.

Sometimes my father took me with him on the morning of the show, when he prepared his exhibits with all the care of a doting parent looking after a newly born babe.

The flowers were all wrapped in tissue paper, and the rose entered in the men’s buttonhole class was patiently wired up with fern, placed in a handsome holder filled with water and then fixed in position on a stand covered with black velvet.

The potatoes were given even more tender treatment as they were washed with Pears transparent soap and water, dried off and given a final polish before being handed on a plate to the show table.

After tea all the family had to go to see how many prizes he had won. Then I was given all the prize cards -- red, blue or green, I think, depending on whether they were first, second or third.

In my teens the Saturday night dances at the Mechanics’ were all the rage. Even for lads like me who couldn’t dance but went along in the hope of finding a lonely lass willing to have some company on the walk home.

The dance hall in those days was by no means palatial. Some might say the seating was positively primitive. Those straight-backed wooden forms set out around the floor certainly created an impression after you’d been sitting on them for half an hour.

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